Having existed for 13 years, 10 months, 19 days, national Prohibition came to an end Dec. 5 at 5:32 p.m. E. S. T. at Salt Lake City when Utah became the 36th State to ratify the 21sat Amendment.
A thin-faced man with puffs of sandy hair over each temple perched on the edge of a table in the lobby of Washington's Mayflower Hotel one afternoon last week. Two other men leaned respectively against a piece of statuary and the wall. Thus was formed the first quorum of the newest of President Roosevelt's 15 major special governmental agenciesthe Federal Alcohol Control Administration.
The man on the table was FACA's director, Joseph Hodges Choate Jr., 57, of Manhattan. His companions: Edward G. Lowry, special assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury, and Harris Willingham of the Department of Agriculture. Not present were: William Allen Tarver, chief counsel of the Department of Justice's defunct Prohibition unit, and Willard L. Thorp, director of the Commerce Department's Bureau of Foreign & Domestic Commerce. These five were the officers of FACA's control committee.
Harris Willingham was the man who had drafted the distillers' code which President Roosevelt had just signed at Warm Springs. Under that code the liquor traffic was reborn to find that, as for 200 years past in the U. S., it was still not considered quite respectable, was still to exist only by sufferance.
The liquor trade was permitted to name a committee of ten, subject to Federal approval, to fix prices. But FACA could revise these prices, hold tight rein over all phases of the industry. Increase of plant capacity over Dec. 5 output was forbidden, except under special circumstances. FACA had power to control production and distribution through a quota system. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration, under whose direction the liquor industry fell, had inserted a stipulation that the industry pay "parity" prices for its raw materials. In short, it was the code which most distillers had feared and hated and which they had no part in drafting.
If the liquor industry needed anything further to make it feel like an orphan, it came in a remark dropped by Secretary of Agriculture Wallace : "Liquor was legalized primarily as a revenue feature."
Hot on the heels of the distillers' code came the importers' marketing agreement. Article III of this agreement provided for minimum import quotas based on the peak years 1910-14, in which the U. S. bought overseas some 4,000,000 gal. of spirits, some 7,000,000 gal. of wine yearly. No restrictions were placed on the number of U. S. importing firms, but the total business was to be distributed by FACA according to "legitimate trade needs" of individual houses.